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The Best Bushcraft Backpack For Wilderness Adventures


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Last Updated: October 26, 2020

Bushcraft backpacks are designed to be robust and hard-wearing with space for all your essential survival kit.

They’re typically more heavy-duty than hiking or backpacking rucksacks which often sacrifice durability for weight.

Whether you’re after a lightweight mid-size pack or a large pack that’ll carry all your camping gear, we’ve got you covered in our guide to the best bushcraft backpack.

Our Top Pick

Karrimor SF Sabre 45 Backpack

A durable backpack that’s comfortable, spacious and water repellent.Check On Amazon

Budget Pick

REEBOW Gear Small Assault Pack

A great value pack with good features but questionable long-term durability.Check On Amazon

Best Bushcraft Knife Reviews

Best Bushcraft Backpack: Karrimor SF Sabre 45 Backpack

Capacity: 45 liters | Weight:  4 lbs | Materials: 1000D Nylon

Designed for the British Special Forces and used by bushcraft guru, Ray Mears, for over a decade, this is a simple, robust backpack that’s comfortable and well made.

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The main part of the bag is a single compartment (with a nylon sleeve for a water bladder) and the lid has a small inner pocket and a generous outer pocket that’s plenty big enough for emergency food bars and a first aid kit.

If you’re desperate for extra pockets or want to expand the backpack capacity, the SF Sabre PLCE Side Pockets zip onto the sides of the backpack, giving an additional 25 liters of space. The ice ax loops provide a handy attachment point for a survival axe and there are various attachment points for other tools or accessories.

The best thing about this pack is the fit and comfort. The internal frame can be shaped to conform to your back and you can adjust the straps to fine-tune the fit and balance of the load. Although it’s a large pack, the compression straps mean you can cinch in any excess space and keep the weight close to your back.

The backpack is made from heavy-duty 1000 denier nylon which has been treated to make it water repellent. The different style and color options also make it discreet in different environments, depending on your personal circumstances.

Pros

  • Comfortable frame and straps
  • Durable construction
  • Optional side pockets and straps add versatility
  • Discreet enough for urban bug outs
  • Water resistant

Cons

  • Lack of pockets makes it harder to find items in a hurry
  • Heavy

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Best Budget Bushcraft Backpack: REEBOW Gear Small Assault Pack

Capacity: 34 liters | Weight:  3 lbs | Materials: not specified

This is a great value military-style backpack that’s big enough for all your survival essentials, assuming you don’t need to carry camping gear. There’s a handy compression system to tighten up the pack if you’re not filling it to capacity.

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There are four compartments of varying sizes to give you different options for storing your kit, plus various attachment points on the side. The hydration bladder sleeve allows you to keep your water close to your back which helps with weight distribution.

You get a lot for your money, but don’t expect top-quality materials. The compartments are secured using zips which are harder to fix or replace than buckles or a drawstring. For this reason, it’s worth being cautious when packing to make sure it’s not overstuffed.

As an emergency backpack or a bag for occasional use, this a great value option, as long as you recognize its limitations.

Pros

  • Great value
  • Multiple pockets help you compartmentalize gear
  • Compact but large enough for essentials
  • Compatible with hydration bladders

Cons

  • May be less durable than other backpacks
  • Thin waist strap

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Best Premium Backpack: Frost River Isle Royale Jr Bushcraft Pack

Capacity: 27-48 liters | Weight:  5.5 lbs | Materials: waxed canvas and leather

If you want a true vintage bushcraft backpack then Frost River’s Isle Royale pack should be top of your list. Made in the USA from waxed canvas, leather and brass buckles, these packs are built to last and backed up by a lifetime guarantee.

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The Junior pack is the mid-size option with a maximum capacity of approx. 48 liters. If you need a pack larger than this, we’d recommend choosing a framed pack with a good waist belt to spread the load.

The backpack has one main compartment with two large front pockets that are big enough to hold water bottles. The design maximizes space and flexibility with packing, though if you love compartmentalizing everything, you may feel it’s too simple. Because there’s no structural support in the pack, you’ll need to pack it carefully to balance the load.

On the outside, there’s an ax sleeve and lashing on the sides and base of the back, making it easy to attach knives, bushcraft tools or tent poles. The buckskin padded straps are comfortable but may take a bit of breaking in.

One of the great things about this pack is that there’s very little to go wrong with it — no zippers to break or Velcro to rip off. If, after years of wear, a strap or buckle goes, then it’s easy to repair. A bombproof (and stylish) bag to survive the apocalypse, albeit with a high price tag.

Pros

  • Very well made
  • Exceptionally durable
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • Easy to repair

Cons

  • No frame or waist belt
  • Heavy
  • Expensive

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Best Large Backpack: Mardingtop 65L Backpack

Capacity: 65 liters | Weight:  5.8 lbs | Materials: 600D polyester

When it came to choosing the best large backpack, it was a toss-up between this pack and the Eberlestock Destroyer. The Destroyer is arguably better quality and more durable but it’s also heavier and more than four times the price.

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The main compartment of the Mardingtop has multiple access points including a front sleeping bag compartment with a divider. Two discreet side pockets are each large enough to take a water bottle or can be used with the side strap to secure a rifle to your pack. There’s also room for a 5-liter hydration bladder.

The harness system can be adjusted for height as well as all straps being fully adjustable. A few users have reported that the strap buckles can slip, so it may be worth replacing these with more heavy-duty versions.

The pack comes with an integrated rain cover, but for some bizarre reason, it’s bright yellow – not what you’d expect for a tactical pack!

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Adjustable back length
  • Lightweight
  • Rain cover included
  • Excellent value

Cons

  • High-vis rain cover
  • Material is on the thin side

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Best Hunting Backpack: ALPS OutdoorZ Extreme Commander X + Pack

Capacity: 66 liters | Weight:  9 lbs 3 oz (4 lb without frame) | Materials: 1680D nylon Ballistic

If your plans involve hunting then this pack should definitely be on your list. Even if you’re not a hunter, it’s worthy of consideration as a large bushcraft backpack (there’s also a smaller 45-liter version, the OutdoorZ Extreme Hybrid X).

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The unique aspect of this pack design is the external frame, designed for meat hauling (though it could also be used for transporting firewood or other bulky items), which can be used with or without the main pack. There’s also a removable fanny pack that can be used on its own. This makes the Commander X particularly versatile if you’re camping out in the wilderness or once you reach your Bug Out Location.

Due to the frame design, it is a lot heavier than comparable packs, but the support this gives makes it easy to carry heavy loads. The 1680D ballistic fabric will also be a lot more robust and durable than the Mardingtop backpack. If you’re after a real workhorse of a pack, this is it.

Pros

  • External frame adds versatility
  • Comfortable for heavy loads
  • Rain cover included
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Heavy
  • Expensive

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Best for Versatility: NOOLA Tactical Military Backpack

Capacity: 50-60 liters | Weight:  4 lbs | Materials: 600D Oxford fabric

The NOOLA Tactical backpack comes with three detachable pouches in addition to the two-compartment main pack. Two of these are side pouches that can be slotted onto a belt and are perfectly sized for a first aid kit or snack pack. The third is a multi-pocketed pouch that can be used as a fanny pack or over-the-shoulder bag.

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This is a large pack, even without the pouches. Given its low cost, I’d be wary about overloading it both for comfort and durability reasons. However, it’s a great choice if you need to pack lots of warm clothes, a sleeping bag or other bulky-but-light items.

If you’re concerned about the durability, then you may want to reinforce some of the straps and buckles, but overall, this is a good value option if you’re looking for a larger bushcraft backpack.

Pros

  • Detachable pouches
  • Lots of features
  • Good value

Cons

  • Durability may be a concern
  • Less comfortable with heavy loads

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What to Consider When Buying a Bushcraft Backpack

Pack Size and What You Need to Carry

Your first decision when shopping for a backpack is to decide what size pack you need. You want something large enough to comfortably carry all your essential kit but not so big that it’ll slow you down.

The following factors will affect the size of pack you choose:

  • How far you want to hike
  • Whether you need to carry camping gear and warm clothes (see best bushcraft pants)
  • How much food and water you need to carry
  • How fast you need to move.

Seasoned backpackers will tell you that if you buy a large backpack, psychologically, you’ll want to fill it. It may be tempting to try to take everything “just in case”, but smaller, lighter packs are generally more comfortable to carry and will make you less tired.

Compartments and Pockets

Bushcraft backpacks often have numerous compartments and pockets to help you organize your gear. These can be useful if you have certain items you want to be able to access quickly and easily, for example, food and water bottles. However, they do add weight, and the more zips and buckles you have, the more things there are to break!

Think about what you really want to have to hand and what items you’ll only need to access when you stop for a break or once you reach your destination. External straps can be useful to attach larger, more awkward items such as an ax, bushcraft knife or roll mat.

Material and Waterproofing

When considering what material you want your pack to be made from, you’ll need to trade off durability with weight.

Most lightweight hiking packs are made from lightweight ripstop nylon or polyester. On more expensive backpacks, this is likely to be reasonably durable (unless it’s designed to be a featherweight pack) but the fabric on cheaper packs can often rip. This might be something to consider if you’re traveling through wooded terrain where branches can snag your pack.

Bushcraft backpacks were traditionally made with canvas which is robust and keeps things dry through the occasional light rain shower. The downside is that canvas is a lot heavier than modern materials.

If you live in a wet climate, you’ll need to consider waterproofing your pack. Some packs come with an integrated rain cover or you can buy one separately. You may also want to store items such as clothes and electronics in a dry bag inside your main pack to be sure they don’t get wet.

Frame, Hip and Shoulder Padding

Most modern backpacks have a lightweight internal frame to help balance and support heavy loads. Although they’re less common, you may come across some larger packs with a robust external frame.

To make sure your pack is comfortable to carry, you’ll want wide, padded shoulder and hip straps. The “more padding is better” theory is a bit of a myth — often straps with a moderate amount of padding that are contoured to fit around your hip bones and shoulders are more comfortable, not to mention lighter.

The best way to test comfort is to load up your pack so it’s roughly the same weight you’ll be carrying. Make sure you have the straps adjusted properly (there’s a handy guide on how to fit a backpack in this video) and walk around with it to get a feel for how comfortable it is.

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